Closeup image of older adult patient in bed being checked by doctor with stethoscope; Credit: Getty Images

One in 4 older COVID-19 survivors develop at least one health problem that may be traced to their prior illness, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Tuesday. All adults should be routinely assessed for these post-COVID conditions, the researchers say.

Using electronic health records from March 2020 to November 2021, investigators found that among persons aged 65 years and older, 45% of survivors experienced at least one incident condition, compared with 18.5% of controls with no history of COVID-19.

Investigators followed patients for up to one year. Some post-COVID (or long COVID) symptoms were more prevalent than others. Adult survivors of all ages had twice the rate of pulmonary embolism and respiratory symptoms than the control cohort, for example.

Younger survivors were also affected, with 1 in 5 of those aged 18 to 64 years highly likely to experience long COVID symptoms. The most common long COVID conditions across all adults were respiratory symptoms and musculoskeletal pain.

Clinician awareness, ongoing assessment

Along with adherence to prevention strategies, clinician awareness and ongoing assessment after COVID-19 is “critical to reducing the incidence and impact of post-COVID conditions, particularly among adults aged 65 years and older,” the authors, from the CDC COVID-19 Emergency Response Team, wrote.

Other new studies have also highlighted the potential for ongoing problems related to past COVID-19 illness. One in 8 patients experience heart inflammation up to two months after hospitalization, according to a study from Glasgow, Scotland. Damage to other organs such as the lungs and kidneys are also elevated, the researchers found. 

Similarly, results from a study in a neurology clinic revealed that most survivors continue to experience neurological symptoms fully 15 months after their infection.

“We were surprised by the persistence of most of the debilitating neurologic symptoms of our patients, and by the late appearance of symptoms that suggest dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system,” stated the author of that study, from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

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